The Proof's in the Project, Not the Portfolio

Stand Out in Interviews by Showing You Created Something Real

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Les Green Les Green
In this bleak economic reality, my fellow soon-to-be graduates are not worrying themselves with silly things like finding gainful employment. No, they have something more important occupying their precious time and energy: facial hair.

The Second Annual Moustache Invitational began last Friday with about 25 competitors. This competition is the brainchild of a second-year communication strategist and encourages students to grow the most creative upper-lip hair for a grand prize of a weekend ski package. With the tremendous workload that students carry at VCU, a few dozen students are making the time to facilitate and partake in this testosterone-driven challenge. Why? Because it's their job.

Shouldn't every student learning the art and science of marketing and advertising gain experience in actually starting a movement, a tradition, an event, a living, breathing, actual execution? That sounds like a much better way to learn the business than just fictitious campaigns for Fortune 500 brands. The lessons learned from this project will be just as applicable as some of the classroom work. There's an idea, a target, a budget, a concept, media. The only thing missing will be the grade at the end.

And it doesn't stop with the competition. Facial hair, coincidentally, was also the topic of discussion on a silo-mashing super-blog started by another group of VCU Brandcenter students. The site, affectionately known as Blommit, is "a weekly cultural experiment" in which seven students studying various disciplines all give their unique perspective on a random topic. These topics are selected by website visitors voting on the things they are most interested in hearing about.

The student bloggers' contributions vary in format as they use words, pictures, videos, drawings -- really anything they can think of -- to get their point across. The stand-out facial-hair-related post from last week was a video featuring a three-and-a-half-minute diatribe from one of the contributors sporting a full professor-like beard. The dialogue in the video is some long-winded rant about nothing in particular that turns and twists through pointless rhetoric. The payoff comes when the tagline flashes on screen reading: "When you have a beard, you will sound smart, even if you make no sense."

Now if was a hiring manager, I would much rather hear about the challenges of creating a "weekly cultural experiment" when interviewing a potential hire than talk about the ads or briefs in his or her portfolio. Instead of just understanding media, they are creating it.

I am inspired by my fellow classmates, and instead of redoing my resume for the 13th time, my goal before graduation is to create something.